Glinka was specially educated for the army.
In 1803 he obtained a commission as an officer, and two years later took part in the Austrian campaign. His tastes for literary pursuits, however, soon induced him to leave the service, whereupon he withdrew to his estates in the government of Smolensk, and subsequently devoted most of his time to study or travelling about Russia.
Upon the elevation of Count Milarodovich to the military governorship of St Petersburg, Glinka was appointed colonel under his command. On account of his suspected revolutionary tendencies he was, in 1826, banished to Petrozavodsk, but he nevertheless retained his honorary post of president of the Society of the Friends of Russian Literature, and was after a time allowed to return to St Petersburg.
Soon afterwards he retired completely from public life, and died on his estates in 1849. Glinka's martial songs have special reference to the Russian military campaigns of his time.